Can Women Ease the Burden of Men in Farming?

india3 294x222 Can Women Ease the Burden of Men in Farming?

Recently the CARE India team in Odisha hub gathered together for a four-day learning workshop on mainstreaming Gender Transformative Change in all projects implemented at the hub. Odisha hub has decided to specialize its talents, expertise, and skills on advancing economic burdens, educational health conditions, and the governance environment required to lower poverty levels among Scheduled Tribe communities by working with both women and men.

As a majority of the households in rural areas depend on farming as a major source of income and food security, the unavoidable impact of climate is taking a toll on the lives of poor households. Erratic and poor or excessive rains cause damage to crops and reduce  yields. Prolonged drought patterns not only impact employment opportunities but also lead to increased migration.

Odisha hub has been implementing a large-scale agriculture program that works with both men and women to strengthen their capacity to adapt resilient agriculture practices. It also encourages spouses to help one another and to work together to improve agricultural productivity in remote regions, where the productivity and income from agriculture is low and farming extension services are few and far between. The program also helps women anticipate possible negative effects of climate change and to prepare to manage those challenges.

The group is debating the consequences of expanding women’s role and involvement in agriculture, and whether it will lead to greater concentration of men in farming. However, the team’s experience leads them to believe that this is not the case; in fact, greater participation of women in farming activities is likely to lower the burden placed on men.  As the project works with both spouses and helps them with their efforts to increase productivity, adapt new farming methods, and improve access to market support services, it has resulted in better understanding among spouses on the risks and challenges of farming activities.

When only men are involved in farming activities, there is a great deal of social pressure on men. Rigid gender norms do not just advantage men, but sometimes harm them as well. When crops fail due to poor monsoon seasons, pestilence, or low market prices, men are sometimes unable to cope with the financial shock of a poor farming season, leading to a vicious debt trap and even driving some men to commit suicide. However, when both men and women are encouraged to actively participate in farming activities– sharing roles, responsibilities, and decision-making–  women are better able to support men.

By involving women in family farming activities, men not only untie themselves from sole ownership of related burdens, but also help women manage farm activities better. Even if men migrate in search of steady jobs, women are now capable of managing farming, including pest control, in their absence. This gives new confidence to women, diffuses men’s anxiety, and increases trust and hope among women and men.

Contributed by: Dr. Pradip Kumar Mohapatra